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Inside Olympia — Representative JT Wilcox

“I never intended for this to be a career, I’ve been here a lot longer than I expected to.” Republican State Representative JT Wilcox of Yelm is stepping down after 14 years in the State Legislature, much of it as floor leader and then minority leader for the House Republican Caucus.

 

Why did he step down, first from leadership, then from office? It’s time for a new generation of leaders to take the reins, says Wilcox. And, he says, when you’ve been in leadership too long, you develop baggage. He talks about the highs and lows of being a state legislator and legislative leader.

 

He doesn’t think majority Democrats and minority Republicans in the Legislature work in unison as much as they used to. “Single-party thinking has solidified into concrete.” At the same time, he says there’s hope. He talks about the diversity and new voices in the Legislature, and the great conversations he’s had with young representatives on the Democratic side of the aisle: Debra Lekanoff, Kristine Reeves, Chris Stearns and Melanie Morgan.

 

He shares a story about inviting all the members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Democrats and Republicans, out to his farmhouse an hour from Olympia, for dinner and conversation that lasted until midnight, a memorable evening of bipartisan fellowship. More of those, he says, need to happen.

 

Other topics of conversation: the passage of law enforcement bills, including police pursuit, that he believes elevated ideology above good policy and didn’t reflect the true beliefs of a majority of representatives; how COVID was handled in the state and in the Legislature; endorsing two candidates for Commissioner of Public Lands, Republican Jaime Herrera-Beutler and Democrat Makah Tribe Member Patrick DePoe; the challenges of leading a legislative caucus; the importance of management experience in elected office; the sometimes vicious nature of politics these days, particularly threats aimed at women in elected office; and much more.